Viewer discretion: Insanity and gore warning. And no disrespect to any religion was intended.
He didn’t know why she’d asked to meet at the old cottage. It had been years since his wife had even mentioned this property. She greeted him at the door with a smile, vastly different from the weird behaviour exhibited by her since the last two weeks. “Come in,” she ushered him towards the living room. “Let’s sit and talk for a little while before dinner.”
He sighed, sitting at the far corner of the couch. She would inevitably start with her usual twenty questions. What had he done all day? Where had he been? Why did he not come back to her straight from work? Marrying into her wealthy and powerful family had seemed like the dream come true for a man with little prospects; her obsessive love seemed trivial and easily manageable in the face of an opulent lifestyle that awaited him. But he’d underestimated the strength of her devotion; or rather, her obsessive control over his life and bouts of irrational jealousy that had become unbearable.
A year ago, he’d met Annika and had immediately been ensnared by her beauty and lively spirit. She’d provided a much needed breathe of fresh air from having to live with a wife who blew hot and cold. This cottage, his wedding gift from father-in-law, had been their love nest; a quiet spot away from the all-seeing eyes of her family as well as a spit-in-your-face to the noose that tied him to his harpy wife.
“Do you remember the good old days of our love?” she whispered, looking at him with unnaturally bright eyes.
“We’re long past that, my dear,” he replied, trying to keep the sneer off his face. “If it was even love. I’m not so sure anymore.”
“Your obsession and my greed! These don’t make a good foundation for marriage, I’ve learnt.” She tilted her head, as though trying to view him from a different angle. “Are you in love, then?”
The question caught him off-guard. He’d been reluctant to end his marriage, though it had become a burden. At Annika’s insistence, he’d agreed to broach the subject of divorce with his unpredictable spouse. “That’s not the issue. What’s important is our failed marriage.”
It had been the right decision, he realised, to start afresh with Annika and the money he would receive as settlement for divorce.
She nodded to herself once, before straightening her shoulders. “Then it must end.”
She sat beside him throughout dinner, despite having eaten earlier. Mid-way through his meal, he enquired about the box at the mantel. A big, brown box with two holes centimetres apart, he was surprised it hadn’t caught his attention when he’d entered the room.
“It’s a gift,” she smiled enigmatically. “You can open it after your meal. More wine?” It was still in the aging process, she’d explained the reason for the wine’s bitter taste.
He approached the mantel, eager to open the present. Not so heavy, considering its size, he thought as he lifted the box.
She watched him curiously, as he dropped the box in shock. The head of a woman rolled out; red hair spilling around her face, fair skin with protruding dark veins and blue lips. Coming up to stand beside her husband, who could only stare at the severed head in aghast, she explained, “I knew about it, of-course. But I wanted to see if you would confess.”
He could feel numbness spread through him, as she went on. “She fancied herself in love with you. Can you believe it? She’d laughed to my face when I told her that we’d promised to be each-other’s forever. Delusional, she called me. So, I showed your mistress the price one had to pay to remain in love.” A distant part of his mind registered her gloved hands caressing his arm.
“She could see you the entire time, consuming your last supper.” With a wry smile, she turned away.
What? He wasn’t sure if he’d spoken aloud, past the huge rock that seemed to crush his lungs.
“I thought it was romantic, watching your beloved drink your poisoned blood. A little twist of Romeo-Juliet.” The last two weeks had indeed been busy for her, carefully making plans and confirming the arrangements. She could have tried to overlook his fling, but booking a cabin on the first available ship to his hometown had been the last straw. If he wished to leave her, she’d oblige him.
She poured a glass of the ruby red wine. “I gave her a large dose of a lethal poison,” she spoke conversationally. “After all, why prolong her suffering? But for you, my dear… It’ll be hours of agony ahead.” His last note had been carefully crafted and placed in the bureau. The coroner was a dear friend of her brother and her husband had unknowingly helped her along, moving the empty glass bottle of poison to the trash bin with his bare fingers. The couple would be found dead in their lover’s retreat, murder-suicide.
They’d empathise with the grieving widow, who’d gone against her family to marry the man she loved; only to be deceived in such a despicable manner.
“Who are you?” he gasped, as his legs gave out. How had he never recognised the insanity shining behind her pale hazel eyes?
She replied with a sweet smile, “The woman who loved you enough to keep our last vow. You remember it, don’t you? Until death do us part?”
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